Thursday, July 16, 2009

* When “black” was more beautiful – In the 1950s and 1960s an organization of black churches and ministers forged the way for the civil rights movement for African Americans. This historic and game-changing force was the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) led by Martin Luther King, Jr., Ralph Abernathy and Andrew Young. Freedom loving Americans will always remember and honor their leadership and their sacrifices. Against long-held prejudice and less-than equal rights they believed that nonviolent civil disobedience could help end segregation and foster social justice for blacks. Their diligence and persistence led to legal decisions and legislation that finally provided African Americans the rights granted to white males when our country’s founders declared independence from England in 1776 and formed a less-than-perfect union that would take 200 more years for its stated freedoms to be all-inclusive.

I note this background because today the SCLC should be the target of sit-ins and marches for what has become its civil-rights hypocrisy. While fighting for the equal rights of African Americans the SCLC has decided to incarnate as George Wallace when it comes to equal rights of gay Americans. The SCLC is “seeking to remove the president of its Los Angeles chapter,” Rev. Eric P. Lee, in response to his role in organizing opposition to California’s same-sex marriage ban, Prop. 8, last fall. The cry for freedom during the civil rights movement for African Americans was “We Shall Overcome.” I suggest they change their rallying cry to “One and Done.”

* Was it good for you? – NY Times columnist David Brooks wrote about sitting next to a Republican senator at a dinner. Brooks claims the senator had his hand on Brooks’ inner thigh throughout the dinner. When asked the name of the senator Brooks declined to reveal his identity. It seems reasonable to inquire why Brooks did not just get up from the table. Either he was secreting his tumescence or he did not want to miss dessert.

* You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make him drink – I thought about this adage listening to Senator Amy Klobuchar’s (D-MN) remarks during the confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. The senator related how her parents had purchased the Encyclopedia Britannica in order to enhance her education as Sotomayor’s mother had done for her and her brother who would later become a doctor. The stories resonated for me because my parents had also purchased a Britannica set for me and my brother. My mother had completed high school but my father did not, having to leave school to help support his family. Fortunately for me and my brother our parents realized the need to be proactive in our learning. I was the first in my family to attend college. There is no question in my mind that this would not have occurred without the diligence and encouragement of my parents to ensure my intellectual development.

My understanding of the importance of a parent’s role in the education of their child was further broadened when I worked as a substitute teacher to fund my graduate work. Some of this work was in neighborhoods where parent involvement in their child’s education was too often minimal to none. It did not require an advanced degree to comprehend rather quickly which students received parental oversight in their studies. Probably the most important element in the education process, the role that parents play, is the one receiving the least attention in attempts to improve grade school learning. As I follow reports on the problems and failures of education in America the system is to blame, teachers are to blame, lack of funding is to blame along with television, movies, electronic games and the bogeyman. It is doubtful if any combination of educational programs and teacher incentives will achieve success in educating children if the parents are absent from the equation. What I observed over 40 years ago is as pervasive, if not more so, today.

* The Buchanan Watch – For the third week in a row Pat Buchanan has managed to catch my attention with his insidious and harmful remarks. Appearing on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Buchanan said, “Todd Palin, ought to take Levi down to the creek and hold his head underwater until the thrashing stops.“ Buchanan was criticizing former almost son-in-law Levi Johnson for his remarks about Sarah Palin. Mr. Buchanan once again joins fellow pundits Limbaugh, O’Reily, Savage and Beck on the Psycho Babblers Express. I say shame on the house of MSNBC for continuing to give Buchanan a forum.

* From
"I will not vote for -- and no senator should vote for -- an individual nominated by any president who believes it is acceptable for a judge to allow their personal background, gender prejudices, or sympathies to sway their decision in favor of, or against, parties before the court." -- Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), 7/13/09

"When I get a case about discrimination, I have to think about people in my own family who suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background or because of religion or because of gender. And I do take that into account."-- Judge Samuel Alito, 1/11/06, during his Senate confirmation hearings as nominee for the Supreme Court. Sessions voted to confirm Alito as a Supreme Court Justice

I watched with interest as Sotomayor did attempt to explain to Sessions that she feels it important to be aware of her experiences and prejudices when hearing a case to ensure that this background does not impact her decisions. It is not a concept requiring membership in MENSA to understand but Sessions did not get it. Maybe his parents did not provide him with an encyclopedia in his formative years.

* Speaking of Senator Jeffrey Beauregard Sessions – I get a warm, fuzzy feeling when a U.S. Senator is actually qualified to be interrogating someone appearing before his committee. When Sessions accused Sonia Sotomayor of being a racist he brought to the discussion considerable experience. You can read details at the link but one example that tells you all you need to know about the senator from Alabama: “Sessions had called a white civil rights lawyer a ‘disgrace to his race’ for litigating voting rights cases.” It is interesting that one man’s idea of “disgrace” is another’s idea of nobility.

* Real heroes – A reader sent me a copy of Ben Stein’s final column “Monday Night at Morton’s.” I am not that fond of Stein’s comedic and acting endeavors and even less so of his politics. However, he offers a wonderful commentary about what is important in life and that the real heroes in our society are not the movie and sports stars. It is a highly recommended read available at this link.

* “Diversity may be the hardest thing for a society to live with, and perhaps the most dangerous thing for a society to be without.”
William Sloane Coffin, Jr. (1924 – 2006) Christian clergyman and long-time peace activist with international stature


Ruth Z Deming said...

interesting read, as always, stephen. i was shocked to read your well-documented quote by david brooks who is never that loose-tongued when appearing on PBS' Nightly News Report or writing op-eds for the Times!

also, that insert by ben stein (who i'd never heard of) was dismaying. he echoed the old sentiment voiced by bitchy truman capote who'd said that actors are 'dumb' individuals. i think many of them are worthy of being heroes both for their great performances and b/c of their involvement in social causes. reverse discrimination is at work here just b/c they have money and power. give it to me anytime - money and power and watch me help change the world for the better, as would you! - Ruth Z

Anonymous said...

Stephen you have hit on a number of topics this week that have had some significance for me in my life time.
I lived in a segregated small town in the early 1960's and found that a very small percentage of the population who were affected by segregation took the time out to see what could be done or was being done to change that situation. I would guess that a small percentage of the SCLC are the folks looking to oust the President of the Los Angeles chapter.
You certainly hit the nail on the head in regard to parents and children and education. I watched my wife who taught school for 30 years have to change her tactics in getting parents envolved in ther children's education. When she first started teaching in 1969 she would come home from school and spend the evening calling the families to discuss certain issues that needed to be worked on. By the end of her career in 1999 when she called there was no one to speak to who was either a family member or role model that could help the child with school issues.
Last but not least I think Ben Stein made an excellent point, who cares where they eat, what they eat or who they are eating with. If they are doing anything that helps the environment, child abuse, or fixing our health care system that I would like to know. I really don't care that they have the ability to memorize a few lines, choreograph a fight scene or learn some dance steps.
Cowboy Al